How should I handle potty training accidents? Potty Training

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Girl sitting on a pink potty
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Potty training can take a while, and setbacks are common. The way you deal with accidents depends on many factors including your child's age and personality -- here are a few approaches you might consider.

Keep It Positive

"It's hard for us parents to monitor ourselves sometimes, especially if you've been working on potty training for a while. Don't panic and rush to clean up the mess or say, 'Guess we'll have to go back to the diaper.' Smile, say, 'Oops. Do you want me to get you dry underwear or do you want to get it yourself?' Allow your child to wipe herself. Don't clean her aggressively. If your toddler is crying about the accident, give him a hug, and say, 'You are not in trouble. It's okay to get your...

"It's hard for us parents to monitor ourselves sometimes, especially if you've been working on potty training for a while. Don't panic and rush to clean up the mess or say, 'Guess we'll have to go back to the diaper.' Smile, say, 'Oops. Do you want me to get you dry underwear or do you want to get it yourself?' Allow your child to wipe herself. Don't clean her aggressively. If your toddler is crying about the accident, give him a hug, and say, 'You are not in trouble. It's okay to get your underwear wet sometimes.' Or, 'It's okay to get poops on your underwear sometimes.'" -- Elena Mikalsen, PhD, Mikalsen Psychological Services, San Antonio, TX

Avoid Them by Taking Potty Breaks

"Don't ask if he needs to go, just take him and reward him for listening. Have him sit for 5 to 10 minutes. If nothing happens, try again in about 20 minutes. Get him a basket and put it next to the potty with small toys, books, or bubbles to keep him occupied."

Don't Dwell on It

"Praise is better than punishment. Children are still learning -- they have accidents, especially if the urge just comes all of a sudden."

It's a Phase That Will Pass

"I think this is something that most kids go through and grow out of. My kids did it. I just got out of that stage with my now 4-year-old daughter. I didn't punish her, but I let her know I was not happy to have to clean up the mess."

Remember It's Part of the Process

"My kids didn't become potty trained until they had plenty of accidents. They have to learn what not to do! So now, whenever my son has an accident, I just clean it up and tell him it's okay and that he can make it to the potty next time. I don't treat it negatively because it really is a good thing -- it's helping him learn and he has motivation not to get his underwear wet next time."

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